America: Land of the Free, Home of the FAT
I decided to kick off my blog by discussing a topic that I am very passionate about, and that is the overweight epidemic that plagues this country. I am not just referring to people who are clinically obese. So many of us are overweight…whether it’s 10 lbs. or 100 lbs. So I wanted to provide my thoughts on the history of America’s weight problem which, of course, has more serious implications than just not being able to fit into that pre-kids pair of jeans that you love so much. We all know that being overweight can lead to serious, life-threatening issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer. But what’s scary (and less known) is that health problems can even develop for people who are only slightly overweight. But, going a step further, it also has serious, life-long implications for our kids because we are instilling in them poor eating and life-style habits.
Let me start off by emphatically emphasizing that I’m not judging anyone’s weight struggles here and I’m certainly not referring to people who have medical or psychological conditions that lead to weight gain. But, even for those of us who don’t have medical conditions, it’s sooo incredibly difficult to maintain a healthy weight in America today. We just have so many REALLY BAD FOR YOU food options right at our fingertips. And it’s not just fast food – even people who never step foot into a fast food restaurant are overweight. Why? Well…in my opinion, there are 3 KEY REASONS WE ARE FAT. I will list them here:
1. We Don’t Know How to Eat Right – We, as a nation, have NO CLUE what it means to eat right. Sure, we all know that we are supposed to be eating more fruits and vegetables…but we are all so busy and overworked that (we assume) there is no other option but to turn to whatever is quickest, easiest, most filling, and cheapest…which usually ends up being food that is not the healthiest of choices.
2. Portion Control –While portion control could fall under #1, above, I see #1 more as a function of people not knowing the types of food to consume for optimum weight and health. Portion control is its own animal, and here’s why. We live in the land of opportunity and Capitalism. In case you haven’t taken a history class in a while, Capitalism, according to Wikipedia, “is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit.” What that means is that you will patronize my restaurant (and I will profit) if I serve you bigger and better foods than the restaurant next door. You will eat at my restaurant if I serve you a big ol’ plate of food because you see it as a better value than the restaurant next door, which serves smaller portions for the same amount of money. And you will certainly patronize my restaurant if I serve you unlimited bread and free refills on drinks. (Just for the record, I am not a communist.) Did you ever see the movie “Supersize Me”? If not, you should. In the movie, they talk about how a small order of McDonald’s fries has tripled in size since McDonald’s first came into existence! Here’s another astounding fact: the small size soda at Burger King U.S. is the large size in France! And this phenomenon transfers to portion sizes of non fast-food restaurants and even to portion sizes of foods we buy at the supermarket. Did you know that the federal government says that 3 ounces of meat equals a serving size? Most restaurants serve 4 to 5 times that amount! And here’s the kicker – I recently read a statistic that Americans eat out 40% of their meals. So, since the portions served to us at 40% of our meals are WAY too big, this is a huge contributor to our weight problem. But our lack of portion control doesn’t stop at restaurants. We are guilty of this at home as well. How much meat or fish do you buy per person in your household for one meal? I would guess most people buy a pound or more of meat or fish for every 2 people you are feeding. That equates to 8+ ounces of meat per person! We have completely lost sight of what an appropriate portion size is because, in America, everything is “bigger and better” than everywhere else, including our food.
3. We Don’t Move our Bodies – We don’t exercise because we don’t have time. Or at least we don’t make time. We sit in our cars or trains or buses for an hour, then we sit in front of our computers for 8 hours, and then we get into our cars or trains or buses and sit for another hour, and then we eat that big ‘ol plate of food from the restaurant that serves the biggest portions (see #2, above) of fried rice and General Tso’s chicken or something similar (see #1, above), and then we collapse in exhaustion in front of our big ‘ol flat screen TVs.
In summary, my humble opinion is that these are the key reasons for our country’s “fat” epidemic. There may be other reasons, but I would think the other reasons could probably be sub-categorized under the key reasons I listed above.
I am interested to know what you think of my assessment of our country’s weight problem. Let me know if you agree or not, or if you have other thoughts about the topic. Also, please stay tuned for more entries on how I have overcome these hurdles for myself and my family and hopefully they will motivate you to make healthy changes for you and your family, as well!